Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham


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So what happens at the MRF? We ask a member of staff….

Unless you work in the industry, there’s probably no reason why you’d give your recycling or the recycling industry a second thought once you carry it out to the bin.

It’s hard to grasp the enormity of the recycling industry, not just the amount of recycling collected within Lewisham, but the workforce behind it.

To get a feel for it we took a visit to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF – or we like to say “Murf”). This is where all Lewisham’s recycling ends up and we met a few people who have worked there since recycling evolved in the UK.

29 years ago recycling in the UK was very different. Paul Pavett who’s worked at the MRF for all of these years describes how it used to be.

“The industry’s expanded so much since I first started out 29 years ago and we’ve relocated 3 times in that time. Back in the day, we would get just 6 or 7 lorry loads a day to the site which was just really a waste transfer station. So most of the stuff coming in was just rubbish, but we’d pull out the scrap metal and cardboard by hand, and then dump the rest into landfill.

Paul Pavett who's worked at Bywaters for 29 years and operates the grab amongst other machinery.

Paul Pavett who’s worked in the business for 29 years and operates the grab amongst other machinery.

Our second site was bigger and a MRF was fitted in, which primarily sorted out demolition waste where we’d pull out the metals, woods and anything of value, so there was a few more materials than cardboard but it was nothing like the sophistication of today.

We were situated on the Olympic site, so we ended up having to move to where we are now. This was a major opportunity to put in a state of the art MRF and expand recycling to what it is today. Now we recycle a vast amount of things from plastics, glass, textiles, metals and cartons as well as different grades of paper and cardboard. Once the machinery was fitted, everything just took off. That happened around 2008.”

Confidential waste is shredded and baled ready for reprocessing.

Confidential waste is shredded and baled ready for reprocessing.

Took off indeed! The MRF now employs over 400 staff, with people working within a wide range of skills.

Paul has worked his way up throughout the years and has gone from sweeping up cardboard in the early days to the mechanics team where he manages and operates machinery such as forklifts, excavators and loading shovels and has qualifications in first aid and fire marshalling.

In addition to the mechanics team, who ensure the sophisticated machinery is operating continuously, there are a whole variety of other teams, like drivers, environmental consultants and the financial team who look after 3,000 customers ranging from small businesses to local authorities. And very importantly there’s the people who work on the manual picking lines who are crucial to ensuring that your recycling is a quality marketable product.

This final product is your recycling separated into bales, such as a bale of aluminium cans, or a bale of paper. It’s important for these bales to contain as close to 100% of the intended material as possible, or else it would be difficult to on sell to the reprocessing plants.

A nice clean bale of cans.

A nice clean bale of aluminium cans.

Unfortunately some residents contaminate their recycling with things that could damage machinery, be dangerous to people or simply devalue the recycling product.  Food and garden waste that’s contaminated recycling can spread throughout the load contaminating much more than just one bin’s worth of recycling. Nappies can do the same and are extremely unpleasant for the staff to remove from the line.

It’s those people on the manual picking lines who contend with these problems every day. An initial hand pick is done to remove any noticeable contaminants before it’s scooped up for the machine sorting process. Even though the mechanical sorting process is highly sophisticated, separating card from paper, plastics from metals and so on, this process still requires a final quality check and removal of any nastiness that may have been missed in the other processes.

Pickers see all sorts including food and garden waste and also nappies which shouldn't be in there.

Pickers see food and garden waste and also nappies which shouldn’t be in there.

As Paul mentioned when being interviewed for this story, it’s amazing how over the last 20 or 30 years how recycling has expanded, even boomed and his message to everyone is to keep up the great work, but please keep things like food, garden and nappy waste out of the recycling process and recycle only those things that can be recycled.


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What can I put into my recycling bin?

This is a question that we hear a lot and over the years have tried to tackle it in all manner of ways. We have used traditional methods such as leaflets, put articles in Lewisham Life, used billboards and the side of our refuse and recycling vehicles. We have knocked on residents doors and taken our education trailer to large events and fayres in the borough.

More recently we have moved into the area of social media with the use of Twitter and of course with this blog and we obviously combine them both for better results.  We haven’t tried YouTube that much as a way of reaching people until now.  So we went out into Lewisham High Street recently and approached residents about the recycling issues that they wanted answers to. The video below is the first in a series that we will be posting on this blog. The aim of the short film is to clarify and simplify just what we want our residents to do when it come to using the green bin, recycling batteries, composting and dealing with mattresses amongst many other things.

 


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It might not be a white Christmas, but it can certainly be a green one.

Christmas trees are appearing in people’s front rooms, temperatures are plummeting and Slade were heard on the radio the other day singing that famous yuletide song (you know the one). Yes, it’s Christmas and once again we are putting together a few useful hints and tips on how you can make your Christmas a little greener and a little more environmentally friendly.

  1. Where possible try to shop locally. If you are shopping for food then Lewisham does have some great markets for fruit and veg, the following link has more details http://goo.gl/LNJ9S Supporting your local shops will also keep your community thriving and put something back into the local economy.
  1. The purchasing of a Christmas tree can leave people wondering what their best options are. Artificial trees may last for years but aren’t recyclable and require manufacturing and use man made materials. Real trees are carbon neutral and can be chipped and composted afterwards so are much better for the environment. Some organisations such as www.caringchristmastrees.com and www.christmasforest.co.uk are involved in supporting good causes and may deliver direct. Recycling points for Christmas trees can be found here http://ow.ly/7SVVc
  1. Once you’ve made the decision about your tree, the next thing you might want to think about is decorating it. If you are using fairy light lights, why not consider low energy LED lights? What about using mistletoe, holly with their different coloured berries. Be more creative and consider making your own decorations.

Xmas 2012

  1. When buying presents, again think about shopping locally if you can. Are the presents that you’re buying good for the environment. Could you buy a wind up radio or wind up mp3 player or similar and can you wrap these in recycled wrapping paper?
  1. Christmas cards can all be recycled, some schools may even take them for a school art projects and they can raise money for some charities if dropped off at the right collections boxes.
  1. Food and drink also plays a large part in the Christmas festivities. This of course generates huge amounts of waste, particularly with paper, cardboard, glass bottles, jars and plastic bottles. Please use your recycling bin to collect all these materials. And don’t forget, we can now also collect mixed plastics, beverage cartons (Tetra Paks), textiles, aerosols and shredded paper. Where food is concerned, don’t forget to check out www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for lots of interesting ideas on using leftovers and don’t forget to compost all these peelings as well. And don’t forget that collection times will also change over Christmas, below is all the information you need to ensure you don’t miss your collection.
Normal collection day Revised collection day
Monday 24 December Normal day
Tuesday 25 December Thursday 27th December
Wednesday 26 December One or two days later
Thursday 27 December One or two days later
Friday 28 December Normal day or one day later
Monday 31 December Normal day
Tuesday 1 January Wednesday 2nd January
Wednesday 2 January Normal day or one day later
Thursday 3 January Normal day or one day later
Friday 4 January Normal day or one day later
  1. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Christmas is a time when people receive new electrical appliances and gadgets. If you have an old appliance that still works, why not give it to a charity shop. If the item is broken, why not use one of our WEEE banks to dispose of it or take it to our Reuse and Recycle Centre. See the following link for the locations of our WEEE banks and don’t forget to recycle your old batteries https://recycleforlewisham.com/2011/02/11/small-appliance-banks/
  1. If you’re not fully committed to the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, why not make 2013 the time to start. Your recycling will even generate an income for the Council. And finally, don’t forgot contamination is a major issue for us, make your 2013 a contamination free year when using your recycling bin. Say no to food waste, garden waste and put those black sacks in the refuse bin.

The recycling team at Lewisham Council would also like to say a big thank you to everyone in the borough for supporting all the recycling and environmental services in 2012 and look forward to their support in 2013


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Taking a closer look at contamination of recycling bins

Lewisham Council’s operations team, all the team members involved in waste education, the contracts manager looking after the Bywaters contract and the Strategic Waste Manager are always looking for ways to tackle the issue of contamination within the recycling bins in the borough.

Before we go into the role we want residents to play in helping the Council tackle the issue of contamination, let’s start by looking more closely at what contamination actually means. When we say that a bin has been contaminated, we mean that there are items in the recycling bin that really should not be in there and which the materials recovery facility (Bywaters) do not actually want.

We recently put a sticker on every 240 litre recycling wheelie bin across the entire borough clearly stating what can go into the bin. The sticker uses photographs, symbols and text to illustrate what we want our residents to do when it comes to using the recycling bins correctly.

Putting the correct materials in the recycling bin will help us tackle the contamination issue.

As well as a sticker, the Council have also produced a small booklet which was distributed to all kerbside properties. Like the sticker, it gave clear instructions about what can go into the recycling bin and what happens to the recycling after the crews empty the bins.

We have also put information on to our recycling vehicles, in the Lewisham Life magazine, on the Council’s website as well as this blog. We’ve sent out press releases and used JC Decaux signs to spread the message further and also used Twitter to highlight the issue to around 900 followers.

Our recycling crews are also helping us by identifying offending recycling bins, putting a red tag on them and then letting us know so that we can write to the residents concerned in a bid to work together to tackle this issue. We then write to a resident 3 times if they are persistently contaminating the bin and on the 4th time will explain that we are taking the recycling bin away. We need to do this to stop the contamination.

But, despite all these measures, we’re still not quite on top of the issue. Our crews are still coming across bins that are filled with garden waste or worse still, food waste. Food waste causes problems as it smells, it’s usually wet and will spread to other materials when compacted in the vehicles. Cardboard and paper covered in food waste understandably affects the quality of the material and ultimately the value and price of it.

Blacks sacks are still being seen in the recycling bins on a regular basis. Whilst plastic sacks on their own (providing they are empty and clean) are fine, many people are still putting full black sacks in the recycling bins. The problem with this is that our crews cannot tear them open or check every bag due to time and health and safety considerations and if the sacks do contain general refuse, we will again have quality issues with the materials.

Bywaters recently showed us some images from one of our loads that contained a lots of polystyrene. This is another material that cannot be recycled and doesn’t belong in the recycling bin. If people do have lots of polystyrene, then simply put this into your domestic refuse bin where it will be incinerated at the South East London Combined Heat and Power plant (SELCHP) in New Cross. Some people might think they are doing the right thing and that a home or market will be sought at the recycling plant for this material, but this is not the case. It will be flagged up as a problem load, the offending material will then need to be removed and subsequently transported for disposal with the costs being passed on to us. This applies to many materials that we find in the recycling bins.

After Bywaters have sorted and separated the materials, they are sold to reprocessors. Prices for these materials vary depending on current market conditions. Good quality, clean materials will be more readily accepted and be sold much easier, poor quality contaminated materials won’t be.

Our message to our residents is to only put the items that are stated on the new bin stickers and follow the information in the new booklets that were distributed to kerbside properties. Residents on estates or flats will have received a similar booklet and an additional bag to help transport materials to their nearest recycling bins. For those with any doubts about what can go into the recycling bins (including clear sacks), please click on the following: http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/wasterecycle/Pages/What-can-I-put-in-my-recycling-bin.aspx


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Recycle Week in Lewisham 2012

June 18th – 24th was National Recycle Week  and was an opportunity for the Environment and Community Development (ECD) Team to promote recycling to the residents of the borough. Social media was used to send out endless tweets giving facts about plastic bottles (this years theme) as well as other facts to encourage people to recycle more or even start recycling for the first time.

Several different events took place by way of raising awareness of recycling generally, but also to keep putting the message out that the Council are now able to recycle more materials such as beverage cartons, shredded paper, textiles and mixed plastics on top of the usual paper, cardboard, cans, plastic bottles and glass.

As part of the acivities, we took a group of pensioners from the Lewisham Pensioners Forum to the materials recycling facility (MRF) so that they were able to witness at first hand how all the various materials were separated and sorted using an efficient mechanised process that also includes a great deal of hand sorting.

As well as this, Council staff took out its recycling trailer twice during the week to the Lewisham shopping centre where a builders bag was used to collect ‘on the go’ recycling from the commuters and shoppers who were out and about in the high street.  As well as collecting cans and sandwich packs, there were also a lot of plastic bottles collected. This was also an opportunity to engage with our residents to promote the recycling of plastic bottles and to answer any queries they had about recycling and waste issues generally.

A resident visits us at our recycling trailer

Some of the items collected in the builders bag from shoppers and commuters.

Whilst these activities were taking place, we had also been in touch with an art organisation called Platform-7 to organise another event that we wanted to take place during Recycle Week. The event was called Deluge (see story further down) which took place at the old Blockbusters store in Rushey Green, Catford. The focus here was on the ‘politics of the videocassette, obsolescence and recycling. ‘ Academics from Goldsmiths University gave mini lectures on obsolescence and packaging. Paul Halliday, a lecturer from Goldsmiths was exhibiting his art installation at the Blockbusters store. This was a large spooled out mass of video tape from around 600 old video tapes that were collected as part of the project. Whilst Platform-7 were using the disused shop (courtesy of Lewisham Council), they were encouraging residents to still use it as a drop off point for all their unwanted videos which people were more than happy to do. Just like the old days. Looking at the  the mass of spooled out tape was like staring at an advancing oil slick in the large open space of the Blockbuster store.

The spooled out tape from 600 video tapes. More were collected and will be recycled.

The Council also called upon the services of WEEE Man who turned up to promote the collecting of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) . As well as using Blockbusters for collecting video tapes, it was also being used as a drop off point  for old electrical waste and several items of WEEE were collected as part of this.

WEEE Man deep in video tape at Deluge

The spooling mass of tape could be seen 24 hours a day through the window with the night lights and assisting fans giving the installation a different look in the dark evening.

The drop off point for video tapes. WEEE Man drops off his old Terminator films.

All tapes, items of WEEE, the recyclables collected in the builders bag in the high street will all be recycled at the end of Recycle Week.


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What happens to everything that goes into your recycling bin?

We do get a lot of enquiries about what happens to everything that goes into the recycling bins in Lewisham. Whilst we take great efforts to explain what happens to all the materials that go into the recycling bins, there are some people that aren’t convinced that a mechanised process can deal with sifting and sorting all of the different materials.

Of course its not an entirely mechanised process and there are whole lines of people who hand sort much of the materials as it first enters the materials recycling facility, also known as a MRF (pronounced merf).

We do organise tours around the MRF so that people can see all the processes first hand and we also direct people to our contractor Bywaters website where there is a video showing what happens to all the materials once they are tipped out of the recycling vehicles. Not everyone will do these things however so we thought we should put the video of the processes involved on our blog to make it a little more accessible.

Below is what happens to the contents of your recycling bin once it has been emptied.


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Roll out of new recycling bin stickers begins

Work has begun on putting new stickers on all of Lewisham’s recycling bins so that residents will have a clear and easy guide as to what can now be recycled in the borough.

Member of the bin stickering team at work

 From December 2011, the Council started a new contract with the contractor Bywaters in Bow,East London. Under this new contract the Council are able to recycle more materials, which means that you can now recycle, paper, cardboard, glass, cans, plastic bottles, textiles, mixed plastics, shredded paper and beverage cartons (tetra paks). Please make sure all of the above are clean before putting them into your recycling bin.

 The teams that are putting the stickers onto the bins are currently in the Lee area and will be gradually making their way around the rest of the borough to ensure that all residents 240 litre recycling bins receive a sticker. The sticker clearly illustrates exactly what can go into the recycling bins using photographs to ensure we get the message to everyone about the new materials.

 With the Council now receiving an income for everything that is recycled, it is more important than ever for all the residents of the borough to recycle as much of their waste as they can.

With regard to the recycling of textiles, if they are in good condition, we would recommend that they go to a charity shop in the first instance. However, if you feel that they might not be worth giving to a charity shop, then please use your recycling bin.